Nepal earthquake: Canada sending relief supplies, will match donations

Canada is sending more relief supplies to earthquake-struck Nepal and says it will match donations to a fund specifically set up to help people in that country.

DART members bound for stricken region, advance team expected Monday

Canadian forces sit in the lounge and wait at CFB Trenton,in Trenton, Ont., on Sunday. Canada is dispatching advance elements of its highly specialized disaster assistance response team to earthquake-ravaged Nepal. THE CANADIAN PRSS/Lars Hagberg (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

Canada is sending more relief supplies to earthquake-struck Nepal and says it will match donations to a fund specifically set up to help people in that country.

The federal government says it will match — dollar-for-dollar — all eligible contributions to the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund until May 25, but retroactively to when donations first started streaming in on Saturday.

The government is also deploying relief supplies from emergency stockpiles in Mississauga, Ont., and Dubai to help meet immediate needs.

The supplies include blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets, hygiene kits, and tarps.

The measures announced Monday come on the heels of the government's decision on the weekend to send Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team and provide $5 million in initial aid.

A fully loaded CC-17 Globemaster sits on the tarmac at CFB Trenton in Trenton, Ont., on Sunday. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

Defence Minister Jason Kenney told CBC News on Sunday evening an advance team of experts was already en route and is expected to be in Nepal by Monday night. 

The team will assess the situation and determine how to deploy other resources including DART, the military unit that deals with natural disasters or humanitarian emergencies.

A shipment of emergency supplies and the first wave of DART members departed CFB Trenton on Sunday evening — flying to Europe, Kuwait and then India, where they will wait until called into Nepal.

Separately, Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson said the advance team will take in the scale of the devastation following magnitude 7.8 earthquake, which has flattened many buildings and left thousands dead. The Associated Press, through, a government official, reported the official death toll at 2,789. Reuters, citing a police official, had the toll even greater, with 3,218 dead.

The team is expected to report back in a few days on what opportunities exist for assistance and that is likely when the search and rescue elements will be told to go in.

The full DART unit consists of a medical platoon and mobile clinic, engineers and equipment to clear debris, a communications team and a mobile water purification system to provide cleaning drinking water.

It was last deployed to Panay Island in the Phillippines during the fall of 2013 after Typhoon Haiyan. DART also took part in disaster relief operations following devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Pakistan.

Canada contributes $5M

DART is designed to deploy for up to 40 days to help stabilize the region until the local government and international aid agencies are able to step in with their own assistance.

Canadian forces leave CFB Trenton, Ont., on Sunday for Nepal. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

Nicholson says he's spoken with Nepalese counterpart, Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, and "expressed Canada's willingness to help in any way possible."

Ottawa announced Saturday it is contributing $5 million to relief efforts.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is also boosting its consular staff in the region to assist stranded Canadians.

The department said on Saturday that there are 388 Canadians registered as being in Nepal, but cautioned that is only an estimate as registration is voluntary.

Nicholson's office was asked, but did not respond to questions about whether the number had been updated and what the status might be of Canadians in that country.

The DART became a political football in late 2004 when Paul Martin's Liberal government was seen to be slow in putting the unit into the field after a earthquake and tsunami devastated parts of Sri Lanka.

Although the team was ready to go within a day, the government didn't announce its response for 48 hours after the disaster, and it took nearly two weeks for the DART to get going because of a lack of transport aircraft.

It was one of the reasons the Conservative government pushed ahead with the purchase of C-17 heavy-lift transports.

Foreign Affairs has been tweeting out the phone number and email address for Canadians needing emergency consular assistance in Nepal: + 977 (1) 444-1976 and email: Canadians looking for information about family members in the earthquake-affected area can call: 1-800-387-3124.

with files from CBC News


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